Oklahoma native Parker Millsap at just 20 is, frankly, the real deal. Raised in the Pentecostal church by parents with a love of blues and country music this release is a sparse, desolate piece of work that owes much to his personal history and Oklahoma itself.
The first thing you notice about the album is the voice. Millsap is young but his voice seems fully formed, a little gravelly but with range and versatility. The voice suits the songs perfectly, if he gets ragged it’s because ragged is required. The other striking aspect is the instrumentation, it’s sparse, very sparse, an acoustic guitar, upright bass a little percussion with the occasional steel guitar and fiddle as and when required. Is that a muted trumpet on album opener ‘Old Time Religion’? This gives the album the feeling of age. It sounds old but ageless, traditional yet of its time.
At the end of the day it’s about the songs. Luckily Millsap has songs to spare. The aforementioned ‘Old Time Religion’ sets the scene as the protagonist ‘makes his decisions down on his knees’. While on ‘Forgive Me’ a young man questions his faith and the dark, strident, ‘Quite Contrary’ has fairy tale characters heavily involved in the drug trade. The arrangements and sparse instrumentation do give an overall feeling of melancholy, ‘The Villian’is a thing of aching beauty. Not to say it’s all doom and gloom as the clever lyrics are able to paint some light relief on the gentle shuffle ‘Disappear’ when a couple plan to, or more likely, yearn to relocate ‘Leave your mothers china and all our original plans’ the husband advises.
I’ve picked out, what I consider, a few highlights but it’s all good here. I believe the album is getting a UK release on September 1st and then later in the year Parker Millsap is guesting on tour with Old Crow Medicine Show. Now that is a marriage made in heaven.
Update: Parker Millsap / Old Crow Medicine Show Live Review
Morganway first came to my attention earlier this year when they unexpectedly appeared in the RGM inbox. The track in question was ‘Frozen In Our Time’ and my classic rock taste buds were instantly sated as Morganway presented a sound that owed a debt to the likes of Dire Straits (musically) and Fleetwood Mac (vocally) while the addition of fiddle delivered a folky musical curveball. This early positive impression would be further enhanced by subsequent singles and cemented by a really terrific live show at Black Deer Festival. I had a feeling that Morganway might be on to something a little bit special, and I’m pleased to report their debut album doesn’t disappoint.
Leroy from the North is the debut solo offering from Eli Wulfmeier a singer/guitarist from Los Angeles by way of Michigan. If the name sounds familiar it’s hardly surprising as Eli spent three years as a member of The Wild Feathers; whose 2013, John ‘Jay’ Joyce produced, debut is a cool slab of Eagles/Jayhawks influenced country rock. Eli’s other credits include playing with Katy Rose, Shelby Lynne and Joe Purdy amongst others and he is also a member of female-fronted hard rockers Dorothy. Eli brings all of these influences along for the ride on the five tracks that comprise his ‘Health and Fitness EP.
The Iveys are a bona fide family band, comprising two sisters, two brothers and one brother-in-law. The current five-piece lineup has built from the initial sibling duo of Arlen Ivey and Jessica Ivey Carr and Colors Of Honey, their new six-track release, will serve as their calling card as they embark on a very busy tour of their native Texas in June.
After three lauded solo records and countless packed-out shows across the globe, Glen Hansard has amassed laurels aplenty upon which to rest if he were that way inclined. Thankfully, it would appear he is not, as This Wild Willing represents a decisive step forward in the post-Once career of the onetime Frames frontman as he eases off on the Van Morrisonisms he’s become synonymous with and begins re-engaging with the boundary-pushing of his earlier work.
If you like your Americana to pack a serious punch then step into the ring and go a few rounds with Haint Blue. The Baltimore-based seven-piece, headed by vocalist Mike Cohn, have just released Overgrown, an epic storybook LP that has been ten years in the making. The songs are woven from Cohn’s time spent in the grip of a rigid fundamentalist faith, with which he ultimately cut ties. The songs deal in turn with the wrench of this emancipation; the loss of faith and friendship and the struggle with depression and addiction. Told you it was heavyweight.
When Rhode Island’s Deer Tick returned after a four-year gap they were obviously intent on making up for lost time and released two albums of new material which showcased their ability to switch from punky alt-rock to melancholy Americana without missing a beat. The ‘Twice Is Nice’ tour followed and the artistic rejuvenation of the band continued at a pace. This rush of activity finds a logical conclusion with ‘Mayonnaise’ which acts as both a companion piece to the recent albums and a nice memory jog if you were lucky enough to catch the guys on tour. ‘Mayonnaise’ is a pretty cool release and should prove essential to fans who will find plenty of interesting stuff to get their teeth into. A mix of new material, alternate versions of recent tracks and cover tunes performed on the tour ‘Mayonnaise’ is more a rich hearty stew than a mere condiment.
When David Leask reflects on the reasoning behind his latest release, “6/8 feels like a musical home to me, a signature of time, a sense of place” he sounds like a man at peace with his surroundings and the creative process. It’s hardly surprising then that the six songs on this fantastic EP are so impressive, even if the initial idea seems a little off-kilter. Six songs recorded in a 6/8 time signature might sound a little strange until you realise the great range that 6/8 allows, especially when coupled with superior tunes. If you’re wondering about 6/8 then think of it as a variation on a waltz—a lilt if you will—and you’ve got the idea. Many of your favourite songs will have been written in this time signature, trust me we’re not talking weird Frank Zappa approved strangeness here
As one half of the Indigo Girls for over thirty years, Amy Ray’s feistiness and grit always served as a contrast and balance to Emily Saliers’ tenderness and sheen and this is doubtless what has made the duo such an enduring success. Ray has, by now, rightly earned her place as a member of folk rock royalty and on Holler, her sixth (who knew?!) solo record, her creative fires are burning as bright as ever.
Danny Kiranos aka Amigo The Devil arrives on the scene with ‘Everything Is Fine’ and the one thing I can tell with absolute certainty is that things most definitely are not fine. In fact, we’re as far from fine as it’s possible to get. “This life is a joke and death is the punch line” gives you a good idea of Kiranos’ state of mind as Amigo The Devil. So join me, if you’d like to partake in an hour or so of Southern gothic murder folk country, with an occasional hard rock/metal left turn, because you never know things might turn out fine in the end, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
The really great thing about country music these days is the wide range of music associated with the genre. If you like your country with that Nashville sheen, or maybe look for something a little more pop or bro it’s out there. If you’re looking for a good old-fashioned tune, that’ll bring a tear to the eye because your dog died, or your wife/significant other left you, it’s out there. In many ways, due to the sheer weight of music being produced these days there really is something for everyone. I’m happy to check out pretty much anything under the country/Americana banner but I must admit that you can’t beat an album that sounds old-school and timeless yet current. With that in mind, J.P. Harris has delivered a record that feels right, looks right and above all sounds right.
RGM first encountered Josh Taerk in late 2017 with the release of his ‘Stages’ EP a five track collection full of lyrical positivity and melody. Less than a year later and Josh is back with ‘Beautiful Tragedy’ which takes up where ‘Stages’ left off. I’m pleased to report that despite a serious haircut Josh hasn’t endured a Samson style loss of his creative strength.
S. K. Wellington’s debut EP is the lovingly-nurtured baby of Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Kemmers. It follows a long period of stepping back from her musical endeavours to stop, reassess and rekindle her creative fires. As a result there’s a confident, easy and nothing-to-lose vibe coursing through this four song collection which significantly contributes to its appeal.